Feature

The Business of Influence

Washington is embroiled in its biggest lobbying scandal in years. How did lobbyists become such an integral part of American politics?

What exactly is lobbying?The term once referred to anyone lurking in the lobbies or halls of Congress or any legislative chamber, hoping to speak with lawmakers. Federal lobbying is now legally defined as communicating on behalf of a paying client with officials in the legislative or executive branches, in an attempt to influence legislation. As a practical matter, lobbyists spend a lot of their time nurturing relationships in government—helping lawmakers raise campaign money, for instance, and trying to pry loose useful information. Their ultimate goal is to play a role in crafting, passing, or defeating laws affecting their clients.

How long has this been going on?The roots of modern lobbying date back to 1215, when King John invited noblemen to petition him whenever they felt their rights under the Magna Carta had been trampled. American colonists felt so abused by King George III that they enshrined in the Constitution the

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